Necessary Observation Skills for Certified Nursing Assistants

If you were to truly break down the influence and importance of a certified nursing assistant, you would see that these professionals are nothing more than an extension of the primary nursing staff. Throughout the work of a CNA, vital information is gathered and relayed to nurses. Without the assistance of CNAs, a host of information pertaining to the physical and mental health of patients would be lost. Because of the importance CNAs have in the realm of patient care, there are several necessary observation skills all certified nursing assistants must excel at. If you’re curious about a career in this field, then it’s important to ensure you can meet and exceed the following observational skills.

The Two Primary Types of Observation Skills

While there is a host of observation skills all CNAs must master, they all fall within two primary categories: Subjective and Objective. Both of these are tested on the CNA examination. For more info about the CNA exam, visit this site.

Subjective Observations – In the most general sense, subjective observations are those that are noticed, but can’t be measured by physical equipment. For example, the patient complains of having a stomach ache or a headache. While these are very real observations, as given by the patient, they cannot be measured with the equipment you have on hand. However, it’s essential that a CNA is able to filter out pieces of information that aren’t important, yet reporting essential subjective observations that nursing staff should be aware of. Remember, the primary job of a CNA is to report statements given by patients as accurately as possible; however, you must use your judgement to determine the level of severity a patient complaint may be at.
Objective Observations – The most basic definition of objective observations is observations that are measurable through undeniable forms. For example, vital signs, blood in patient urine and open wounds are classic forms of objective observations. These observations are not based upon the “feelings” of patients, but rather on the scientifically backed observations gathered through testing or by physical examination. Objective observations cannot be biased based upon personal feelings or personal judgements as they are, do not rely on guesswork to determine the severity of the observation.

The Four Pillars of Reporting Observations

One of the most essential components of being a CNA is learning how to report your observations; both subjective and objective. Because of the importance of reporting, all CNAs must follow the four pillars of observation reporting:

  1. All reported observations must be as accurate as possible
  2. All reported observations must be detailed and delivered to nursing/physician staff in a timely manner. Unusual findings must be reported ASAP.
  3. All reported observations cannot include bias or opinions. They must solely consist of facts, even if the fact is subjective.
  4. All reported observations that come from patient testimonials (complaints) must be direct quotes. CNAs should never paraphrase what they think the patient is trying to communicate. Doing so could severely alter the level of necessary care and treatment for patients.